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Café Cubano: Cuban Coffee In All Its Myriad Forms…

We covered that American classic, Cowboy Coffee, some time ago in this space and I’ve had some warming feedback. So I thought I’d expand your horizons by expanding your coffee-scape some more. Today, we’ll delve into the mysteries of Cuban Coffee…

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Those who like strong coffee – especially Cubans – love espresso. But it must be Café Cubano to be right.

And once they have the basic stuff in front of them, they can go ahead and turn it into a number of other traditional beverages that al boast their own merits.

Basic Café

Colloquially referred to as Cafécito, plain Café Cubano is deceptively simple at first glance.

The stuff is basically very strong espresso – so strong that taken black one would probably think it too bitter to enjoy at all. But step two involved diluting the straight espresso with a sugar syrup foam.

The key to a really good Cafécito is the foam! Here is the detailed recipe from Jaime Silva, a Cuban American Miami native who has a Cuban Cuisine blog of her own:

“In a measuring cup or creamer cup, add [4 tablespoons of] granulated sugar. Add the first few drops of espresso from the espresso maker into the cup of sugar. The first few drops of espresso that come out of the espresso maker are usually the most concentrated. That’s what we want!

“Allow the espresso maker to continue to brew as you make the sugar foam. Stir the sugar and those few drops of espresso vigorously into a pale, thick sugar foam (espumita).

“If you’ve never done this before, there will be a bit of trial and error. I recommend you add a few drops at a time and stir until the sugar foam is thick but drippy. Be mindful of how much you add so you know how much to add next time.”

The measuring cup should be heat-proof, like Fireking or Pyrex. You can use dessert spoons or measuring tablespoons. Just use the same spoon each time for consistency.

Blending the components

To finish off the Cafécito, add the foam to the espresso slowly, stirring quickly but gently (so as not to flatten the foam) with a spoon to blend evenly. Divide into 2 espresso cups to serve.

Brave new worlds

You can use basic Cafécito to make other Café Cubano concoctions:

A colada is a 4-ounce Cuban espresso made with espumita (sugar foam) served in a styrofoam cup [accompanied by] little mini plastic cups meant for sharing. It’s very common in South Florida, for example, to buy one before going to the nail salon to share with everyone. True story.

A cortadito is a shot of unsweetened Cuban espresso with steamed milk. It’s basically a smaller version of a cafe con leche that is sweetened with sugar to taste.

A café con leche is unsweetened Cuban espresso served with hot steamed whole milk. Typically, cafe con leche is served at breakfast along with buttered Cuban toast which most of us dip in our café. Yum!

My take

Café Cubano is, without a doubt, a mirror of Cuban society. Enegetic, colourful, a touch extreme, spicy, bold, literally bitter-sweet. If you’ve never tried it, you owe it to yourself to try some ASAP. And plan to enjoy it the next time Mexican or Tex-Mex is on your menu. If you like espresso, you’ll love Cafécito. After you try it, you may never drink any other kind!

Thanks, especially, to Jamie Silva for her authentic tips, and insights into Cuban coffee and coffee culture!

Hasta la vista!

~ Maggie J.